Bradenton attorney Robert Blalock on Thursday claimed the honor of the 2017 Manatee County Distinguished Citizen.
Blalock, 78, who was born in Bradenton on Nov. 20, 1938, was surprised before a crowd of 300, including his wife, Marlene, daughter, Dannie, and grandchildren, at the Manatee County Fair’s entertainment center.
Every year, the Manatee River Fair Association surprises a person who has made significant and meritorious contributions to Manatee County with the Distinguished Citizen Award.
Blalock is past president or chair of the 12th Judicial Circuit’s Qualification Committee, Manatee County Bar Association, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, Sarasota Orchestra, United Way of Manatee County, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Manatee Community Foundation and New College of Florida Foundation.
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Blalock’s grandsons R.G. Sherrill, 15, and Charlie Sherrill, 13, son-in-law Gardner Sherrill and daughter Dannie Sherrill proudly stood behind the winner who held a plaque almost big enough to play ping-pong on.
“I’ve been the other all of my life, I thought I would try it this way for awhile,” Blalock joked when asked how it felt to finally be distinguished.
“Proud of it,” chipped in his wife, Marlene.
Somehow, Blalock’s family managed to get him to the fairgrounds without him realizing what was going on.
“It was a shock because they told me I was going to be here to see my grandson, Charlie, get an artistic award.” Blalock said. “I’m very gullible.”
“We did good,” Marlene Blalock said.
While a good number of distinguished citizens in the past have been University of Florida Gators or Florida State Seminoles, Blalock may be the only Princeton University Tiger to be a Manatee Distinguished Citizen.
“We all look up to him,” Dannie Blalock, Blalock’s daughter, said of her dad.
To be honored with a Distinguished Citizen Award takes more than being funny or successful in business, as Blalock has done.
It also takes a volunteer passion.
A tireless volunteer
When Blalock was awarded the “Lifetime Spirit” Award at the 2012 Spirit of Manatee Awards by the Manatee Community Foundation, after being nominated by the Anna Maria Island Community Center, a list of his achievements was compiled and it took minutes not seconds to recite.
Along with the organizations previously mentioned, Blalock has been a volunteer force for Southeastern Guide Dogs, Just for Girls, South Florida Museum, ArtCenter Manatee, Manatee Players, Florida West Coast Symphony and Anna Maria Island Community Center.
“Bob Blalock lends his personal and professional expertise to community organizations, encourages volunteerism and philanthropy and quietly has made a significant impact on both Manatee and Sarasota counties,” Spirit of Manatee officials wrote regarding his 2012 award.
Robert Blalock’s nephew, Bill Blalock, a commercial real estate specialist in Bradenton, said E.P. Green, Bob Blalock’s grandfather, would be proud of his grandson on Thursday.
“E.P Green was the start of the Green and Blalock marriage,” Bill Blalock said. “My grandmother was a Green. Of course, Bob’s father was Dan Blalock Sr. and my father is Dan Blalock Jr.
“My uncle Bob is a great guy, a lot of fun,” Bill Blalock added. “Good sense of humor and a great lawyer.”
Asked what the award meant to the Blalock family, Bill Blalock said, “It’s outstanding. It’s one of the most prestigious awards any one can receive in the county and if you look at the history of the award and those who have received it in the past it speaks for itself.”
When asked what he has learned from his grandfather, R.G. Sherrill didn’t hesitate.
“Community service,” he said.